Samuel Stoddon


George M. Doe

Trans. Devon Assoc. Vol. XXVII. (1895), portraits, pp. 222-226.

Prepared by Michael Steer

The Paper was presented at the Association’s July 1895 Okehampton meeting. It supplements information on the life and literary contributions of Rev. Stodden, a Nonconformist Divine, by Rev. J. Ingle Dredge in his paper delivered at the Association’s 1890 Barnstaple meeting. That Paper is available here. The author, George Mark Doe, of Castle Street, Great Torrington was a prolific contributor to the Association’s Transactions. He was Clerk to the Board of Conservators of Torrington Commons. A celebrated local historian he was as well, Mayor of Torrington in 1923 and 1924.   The Paper, from a copy of a rare journal can be downloaded from the Internet Archive. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. Those on which copyright has expired, are available for free educational and research use, both as individual books and as full collections to aid researchers.

In his Second Sheaf of Devon Bibliography, which was read at the Barnstaple Meeting of the Devonshire Association in 1890, the Rev. J, I. Dredge includes the name of Samuel Stoddon, who was one of the Nonconformist divines ejected in 1662 from Buckland, Somersetshire. As he has there given a most exhaustive account of the various works of Samuel Stoddon, this paper must necessarily be very brief Having, however, the privilege of claiming a rather close connection with one of the descendants of the Stoddon family, who has in his possession some relics, which have been handed down for several generations, and are still carefully preserved, I have ventured to contribute this little addendum to Mr. Dredge's paper. The articles to which I refer are: -

1. The original license by King Charles II for Samuel Stoddon to conduct service in a house at Woodbury. 

2. A silver-headed walking-stick of Samuel Stoddon. 

3. Contemporary portraits of Samuel Stoddon and his wife. 

All these are now in the possession of Mr. William Pring, of the Mount, Mold, Flintshire, and came into his hands through his grandmother, Mary Buncombe, of Staplehay, near Taunton, whose maiden name was Stoddon, and so far as I have been able to ascertain, she was the last of that name. 

I trust it will not be out of place for me to give a brief description of each of the articles above referred to. The license, a reduced facsimile of which accompanies this paper, is in an excellent state of preservation. The greater portion of it is printed, having the blanks filled up in writing, with the name and persuasion of the licensee, and the place in which he was licensed to "teach," together with the date, etc. On the top left-hand corner are the remains of what appears to be a red wafer or seal, with the signature "Charles R." and at the bottom is the signature  “Arlington” It is on a sheet of paper, 81/2  inches by 111/2 inches. The license runs as follows: 

"Charles R 

"Charles by the Grace of God King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, &c, To all Mayors, Bayliffs, Constables, and other Our Officers and Ministers, Civil and Military, whom it may concern, Greeting. In pursuance of Our Declaration of the 15th of March 1671/2.  We do hereby permit and license Samuel Stodden of the Presbyterien Perswasion to be a Teacher of the Congregation allowed by Us in a Roome or Roomes in the howse of Andrew Holwill in Woodberry Devon for the use of such as do not conform to the Church of England, who are of the Perswasion commonly called Presbyterien. With further license and permission to him the said Samuel Stodden to teach in any place licensed and allowed by Us according to our said Declaration.- Given at Our Court at Whitehall, the first day of May in the 24th year of Our Reign 1672. 

"By His Majesties Command, 

"Stodden a Teacher."                             "Arlington." 

The stick is of lignum vitae, and is altogether 2 ft. 111/2 in. long, having on the top an interlaced design, with the initials "S.S." and the date "1675" This, too, is in excellent condition, showing how it must have been treasured by those who were, doubtless, proud to claim relationship with one of the representatives of a body of learned and devout men, who played no unimportant part in the history of their country, the results of which are felt even at the present day, and will be so, I venture to predict, as long as our country endures. 

Palmer, in his Nonconformists Memorial, remarks that " it is said that after his" (Stoddon's) "ejectment he practised physic," an allusion to which is made by Stoddon in the epistle dedicatory to his Gemitus Sanctorum, where he speaks of having studied to be serviceable to the "bodily health" of the inhabitants of Sidbury and the parts adjacent in the County of Devon. The walking-stick in question is just such a one as would form part of the regular outfit of a physician of that period. 

The portraits of Samuel Stoddon and his wife are in oil, painted on canvas, and are evidently the work of an artist of no mean ability. They are 2ft. 6in. by 2 ft. 1in. Of the latter I can say but little, save that, judging from her countenance, Mrs. Stoddon appears to have been a lady of a decidedly strong-minded character. That of Samuel Stoddon is, undoubtedly, the original from which the portrait in Palmer's Nonconformists Memorial was copied, and which is there stated to be in the possession of Mr. Stoddon, of Trull, near Taunton, for the two are almost identical About six inches from the top of the picture, on the right hand side, is this inscription : "(Œtatis Sua 40. Ano; 1676." 

The two pictures were in a very shabby condition on coming into Mr. Pring's possession, but fortunately were not seriously damaged, and now that they have been carefully cleaned, &c, are in very good preservation, as may be seen from the accompanying copies of them, which were made in the present year (1895).